Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Train Vs. Airplane, the moral economics of an Assignment

Airplane
0.19 tonnes of CO2

Train
0.02 tonnes of CO2

Ticket Cost = €160
Taxi to Airport = €100
Carbon Offset = €5
Cost to future generations = Unfathomable
Total = Huge
Ticket Cost = €320
Taxi to Station/Back = €20
Good feeling and
Respect from Girlfriend = Priceless
Total = Priceless


In less then one hour I will embark on a 24 hour train ride for my next assignment in Norway. I am off to Norway to work on a climate change story for Canadian Geographic. For the last couple of years I have been focusing on climate change and particularly the youth movements across the globe. Whether at the United Nations Conference or a grassroots events, I have been documenting the young change makers of today.

Needless to say, I move around a lot and I am acutely aware of my personal carbon footprint on the planet. So when the opportunity came up for an assignment where it wasn't necessary to take a plane, I jumped at the possibility.

Why spend 24 hours getting to a destination when I could simply go to Schiphol airport and get on a plane for 2 hours?

It isn't actually all that hard to explain, air travel has for long been cited as one of the main causes of carbon dioxide and one the major contributors (between 4 - 9%) of global warming. Not only that, but aircraft emissions are special. Because they are produced at cruising altitudes high up, the emissions are more harmful. In fact, the IPCC estimages that the impact of aircraft emissions is 2 - 4 times high then the direct effect of the CO2 alone. See the David Suzuki website for more information.

By taking the train to Norway, I am responsible for 10 - 25% of the CO2 that I would if I were to take the plane. This makes me happy, this makes my client happy, it makes future generations happy and most importantly it makes my girlfriend happy. (ED. Note, upon consultation, said girlfriend has declared that she is not more important then future generations.)

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